Does the Social Web Mean an End to E-Mail?

Flying swirl of envelopes and e-mailDuring a recent interview, the candidate asked me if Matrix Group still uses e-mail to promote its services and events.  Curious, I asked her why she asked that question.  She replied that she thought e-mail was obsolete, that all marketing is moving to the social Web.  My first reaction was “no way, you’re crazy, e-mail is never going away.”

But then I read a study by Nielsen that reports “member communities, which includes both social networks and blogs, has become the fourth most popular online category – ahead of personal email.” Whoa!  Social networking and blogging have overtaken personal e-mail?  Could this signal another monumental shift in our communications?

Perhaps.  But yet another Nielsen analysis reports that “the heaviest social media users actually use email more” than other segments. My God, how could this be?  And where the heck are these people finding the time to be on both social networks and e-mail so heavily?

Here’s my take on what’s going on:

  • E-mail isn’t close to being dead because while I can broadcast a status to my Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn, I can’t direct message everyone in my universe because they’re not all on social networking sites, nor are they all on the same site.  My contact list, however, is pretty much all on e-mail.
  • The social networking sites make heavy use of e-mail to let me know that someone has commented on my update, sent me a direct message, written on my wall/profile, etc.  I actually find a lot of this e-mail annoying because on Facebook, for example, if I “like” something, I get all the follow-on likes and comments.  On some days, it’s just a lot of noise.  On the other hand, I like the e-mail reminders because I won’t necessarily revisit a status update, link or friend’s wall regularly.  And RSS gets overwhelming and another place to check!
  • MarketingSherpa sees a pattern of “aggregation and adoption rather than replacement” when it comes to social networking and e-mail. “Some media suffer in the exchange, but none are eliminated entirely.”  In an interesting survey, MarketingSherpa respondents overwhelmingly said that when they want to share a link, 78% say they use e-mail, while 22% say they use social media (there is overlap in these numbers, of course).
  • As more and more of us conduct our daily lives online, e-mail is used for confirmations of purchases, meeting reminders, notes from teachers, yada, yada.  Somehow, I have a tough time imagining that Amazon is going to send me a tweet about my most recent purchase.

I am one who makes heavy use of social networking sites to keep in touch with family, friends, client and colleague.  My e-mail exchanges with certain groups have probably suffered as a result.  But the hundreds of e-mails that pour into my inbox each day tell me that e-mail is alive and kicking.  E-mail is my lifeline and still supremely critical to my business.

How about you?  What’s your ratio of e-mail to social Web usage?  Has your e-mail time declined?  Is e-mail dead?

4 thoughts on “Does the Social Web Mean an End to E-Mail?

  1. I agree with your points about how e-mail is still a valid form of communication. I’ll add that the intended audience is a factor too. I know many folks from the older generations who are not on social networking sites, either because they don’t understand them, don’t see their value or just don’t want to. You can’t assume that everyone is on Facebook or Twitter or LinkedIn.

  2. Has social media made email obsolete? Has Email made Faxes obsolete? Have faxes made snail mail obsolete? — Nope.

    Well, maybe that is a generalization. The comments about audience are quite relevant. At my former employ, 60% of marketing was through fax because that is what the members wanted. Only a small portion even had email.

    I think when it comes down to the wire, there is an appropriate media for your audience and the message you are sending. I was recently invited to a wedding via Facebook. While convenient, it lacked some of the awesomeness that comes with traditional mailed paper invites. But that’s just me.


  3. “She replied that she thought e-mail was obsolete, that all marketing is moving to the social Web. ”

    In agreement with the posts above, ALL marketing will never move to the social web. E-mail will never be obsolete, just like Video never actually killed the Radio Star. Successful marketing is about communicating with your customers in the places they are listening!

    A good marketing campaign will never rely on one form of communication if there are customer segments who tune-in to different mediums.

    A smart marketing campaign will even have different messages for each medium, to reduce overlap and avoid saturating those customers who pay attention to multiple mediums.

  4. Your comments are all right on the money! In previous blog posts, I’ve discussed the importance of using the right platform to reach the right audience with the right message.

    For us marketers, it’s often overwhelming to think of all the ways that exist to reach people these days. And yes, as with any marketing campaign, if not executed well, your efforts will fail. And unfortunately, we can’t blame those failures on a particular medium being dead. Thanks for the great comments!

Comments are closed.